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modalism

Christian heresy that was a more developed and less naive form of Modalistic Monarchianism (see Monarchianism); it was propounded by Sabellius (fl. c. 217-c. 220), who was possibly a presbyter in Rome. Little is actually known of his life because the most detailed information about him was contained in the prejudiced reports of his contemporary, Hippolytus, an anti-Monarchian Roman theologian. In Rome there was an active struggle between the Monarchians, or Modalists, and those who affirmed permanent distinctions ("Persons") within the Godhead. The Monarchians, in their concern for the divine monarchy (the absolute unity and indivisibility of God), denied that such distinctions were ultimate or permanent. Sabellius evidently taught that the Godhead is a monad, expressing itself in three operations: as Father, in creation; as Son, in redemption; and as Holy Spirit, in sanctification. Pope Calixtus was at first inclined to be sympathetic to Sabellius' teaching but later condemned it and excommunicated Sabellius.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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